That which takes birth must die. That which begins must end.
One could argue that this is the founding law, the very basis of Nature. The crux around which all else took form. If you’d rather do away with laws and imagine death as the point of convergence instead, you could say that the grand End is the culmination of the vortex in which all of existence is swept along. Or perhaps each entity is in a vortex of its own, and that culminates (how!) as the End of that entity. Possibilities abound, and they would make for some fascinating illustrations.
However, we’re usually so fascinated by the End and how it comes about, that we forget to study how things live. To bring in some medical parlance, Pathology beats Physiology. Dramatic and sensational beats the ongoing, the mundane hands down. But “you have to understand normal before you can identify abnormal”. That’s the 1st MBBS mantra as far as our faculty and textbooks are concerned, and it makes a whole lot of sense to me.
If we can extend that line of thought to say that the “normal” (albeit shorter) state of existence is being alive, and that the “abnormal” is death, I must echo that studying the normal, the living state, is of paramount importance. It’s what will allow you to prolong the normal and avert the abnormal. You could make anything the subject of this study and it would be valid. That weed creeping about your garden. A pet, a friend. An emotion, your convictions. Relationships. The ruling government.
So do these things survive simply because they don’t die? Because nothing comes along to uproot, kill, convert or impeach them? I feel like a lot of us believe exactly that. It seems spot on, right? The Inertia of Existence. That once things take shape, they stay that way unless acted upon by an external force. After all, Newton was a very smart man, and Aristotle did get bashed a fair bit.
But perhaps there is a different system at work here. One that clicks and just seems right, at least at first glance.
Things survive because they are kept alive – not just because they are born, not just because they don’t die. There are external inputs, whether we notice them or not, whether we feel the need for them or not. These inputs check and balance activity (homeostasis!) such that you don’t pay much attention to their role. But something leads to the drying up of inputs over time. It could be lack of reserves, it could be poor timing or a stroke of bad luck, it could be sheer negligence. When the supply of these inputs dries up, the entity starts to degenerate, approaching its inevitable End. And as stupefying as it is obvious, that’s when you begin to deconstruct matters.
Now, of course the drying up of inputs (an external event) leads to the End. But the Living is made possible by inputs. And what I need is for us to not lose sight of that.
That weed in your garden needs its water and soil and sunlight and fresh air. That relationship with your friend or partner needs your time and concern and initiative and effort. You may see the weed as thoroughly undesirable, and you may actively consider that relationship the anchor of your existence; you may be fascinated by the weed’s unending growth spurt, and you may view that relationship as an unchanging constant – Your perception of the entity does not affect the fact that it needs something to go on.
The weed will wilt on its own if the soil around it was to turn barren. The relationship will cease to exist if you call upon each other only when to seek comfort. It was not enough for that seed to sprout open. And it never will be enough that you first shared sweet nothings many moons ago.
Suspend the belief that you get to “wait and watch” how matters proceed. Every entity, every relationship, every academic program you will ever undertake is an ongoing process – and it needs active participation from both ends to sustain, let alone flourish.
This may not find a respectful place in the next pathbreaking textbook on physics, but to this layman, empirical evidence suggests thus –
That which moves needs pushes to keep moving. That which exists needs something to keep it alive.